Are We Grading Our Students Wrong?

Published by alvinauh on

I was working for an education startup looking to change how we teach our students. We have become such an exam-oriented society that we seem to have forgotten why we learn. The owner of the startup claimed that one of the biggest challenges towards educating the students was to educate the parents.

 Giving The Children A Grade

The term giving children a grade is something used when we are giving children a grade for their results. However, the founder has a different idea for this term.

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He started noticing that parents and teachers alike have started branding the children with certain terms that resemble a grade. You may have heard of such terms before. Some parents and teachers would label the children as, ‘slow’, ‘clever’, ‘stupid’ or even ‘naughty’. Some may even compare between the children in a particular class.

Over time, these children get relegated into groups where we label them by a particular ‘grade’. A-grade students are generally students who are well behaved and academically inclined. C-grade students are students who are disruptive and are not able to keep up with the lesson in school.

The problem with such grading is that the child knows about it as well. The founder lamented that learning has degraded to a state where everyone is graded according to an archaic system that is not relevant to the world today. As he saw in an article, we are using 21st century tools in 20th century learning environments with 19th century learning styles.

In such a system, the benchmark to grade the students is the use of exams. Sadly, exams do not take into account many things that would determine the success of the children in the future.

What We Should Be Doing

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One of the things that I am working with this founder is to change the parents’ mindset on exams. He wanted parents to focus more on how the children have been learning instead of what they have been getting for their exams.

Although exams may sound like an excellent way to grade students, it actually is not. This is because exams are generally pen and paper-based tests. As such, this assesses the writing and reading skills of the child. However, what about problem-solving and practical skills? These items are at times not graded.

Furthermore, exams require the children to get it right the first time. As such, even if you are not at 100% on the day of the exam, your grade is supposed to represent how good you are.

Finally, the many 21st century skills  are often not evaluated in exams. Thus, we may be doing a disservice when using exams as a benchmark. As such, we should be focusing on this through practical hands-on activities. Of course, we must also acknowledge that all children are unique. Some may be bad at exams but perhaps they will find success in areas that better suit their strengths.


I have always been passionate about this subject because I grew up in an academic-worshipping-environment. Academic excellence was the focus and the ultimate goal that many strive to achieve. However, with our ever-changing world, perhaps we have to rethink how we approach learning. Or else, we may risk preparing our children for a future with skills that are better suited for the past.